People demolish the letters on the KGB officers monument in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014.(AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
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President Vladimir Putin faces a decision over Ukraine that is likely to shape his political legacy as well as the future of Russia's western neighbor, trapped in an East-West battle that has echoes of the Cold War.President Viktor Yanukovich's loss of power deprives Putin of an ally vital to his hopes of keeping Ukraine, the cradle of Russian civilization, in what he sees as Russia's orbit. The region used to be Russian territory and was given to Ukraine in 1953 by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who was from Ukraine.Such comments, echoed by other protesters, underline how high the stakes are as Putin looks for ways to save face in the geopolitical struggle over Ukraine that had appeared to be going his way until the past week.The protesters' success in toppling Yanukovich in Ukraine is also being watched closely by Putin's opponents, who failed to end his grip on power by staging big street protests in the winter of 2011-12 .
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